Healing-magic in a Familiar World

Ah, the complicated shapes magic can take! Beyond the three major branches of magic described in the Familiars stories (sorcery, mage-magic, and group/coven magic), there are a lot of specialties that most non-magic users or sensitives don’t know about. Continue reading

Zero-Sum Follies

I was reviewing liberation theology, and reconfirmed that creating one fixed definition for it is, oh, like trying to write a description of the shape of an amoeba that applies over the entire lifespan of the creature. Other than “fluid, but not entirely.”

Like so many pre-modern and Marxist economic ideas, most forms of liberation theology that I have encountered assume that the world has a fixed amount of wealth and resources. Thus, if one group is poor or in decline, it is because another group has taken the poor’s share of the wealth. Mercantilism also used that idea, which in the case of Europe between roughly AD 500 CE and AD 1520 CE was much closer to correct, when you looked at ruling states and the quantity of gold available. Don’t look at silver, because that grew due to the opening of the Kutna Hora mines in Bohemia. In that case, yes, the quantity of gold was almost fixed, limited by the loss of Rome’s access to African gold resources after the expansion of Islam. But mercantilism failed when 1) the New World mines began producing, and 2) technology and early mass-production developed in the 1600s-1700s. Adam Smith among others made that point quite clearly.

However, zero-sum is easy. It explains what people see in their every-day existence, especially in a world where the government decides who wins and loses, based on who can bribe their way to escaping regulations and confiscations. “Hans has two cows. I have no cows. In a just world, I would have one cow and he would have one cow.” Or more commonly “Our village was richer until those people over there took our best fields and bribed the authorities/noble/corrupt abbot to ignore the theft.” It also scales up easily. I’ve heard international aid workers fall into that trap. “Mission groups to the Congo and the government of the Congo would have more resources and money from the US if Americans and the US government didn’t spend it on luxuries like having five fast-food outlets in the international arrivals terminal at JFK.” No, I’m not kidding. He had completely absorbed the zero-sum assumption. He also complained because the Congo didn’t get aid from the US while Rwanda did. Just because Congo was still in the middle of a massive series of internal conflicts with no confirmed central government didn’t matter.

Marx assumed that capitalists got rich by impoverishing their workers. Some writers on liberation theology assumed that individuals got rich by charging too much for goods because they had a monopoly, and they hurt their suppliers as well as consumers – one example was a bread factory that underpaid farmers for wheat and charged too much for the finished bread. This leads to “just price” arguments (which go back to Late Antiquity and lasted through to today) and calls for the government to seize the factories, or for the poor to seize the factories and pass out the bread to all who need it. That the factory owner might have been the only one willing to risk his money on a factory in that region, or the government had decided that only one factory was needed and so prevented competition . . . Requires a shift in worldview that can be very difficult. Like Marx admitting that workers did indeed have power, and that perhaps labor is not the only reason things cost a certain amount, or that a rising tide can lift more than just one boat.

Zero-sum is envy. “I want his cow,” “Just because they don’t have a corrupt government is no justification for us being poorer than Germany.”

Liberation theology, when done well with a good amount of intellectual honesty, has valid points and critiques of society, especially in parts of Latin America and Africa. Alas, it seems to only rarely be done well, and was/is abused to justify horror in the name of “G-d loves the poor the best of all.”

Patter Songs

On Sundays, Peter Grant has music days. This past day he gave me an ear-worm*, thanks to a rendition of “My Old Man’s a Dustman,” a song I grew up singing because of the Irish Rovers. That, “Lilly the Pink,” “The Tattooed Lady,” and others were what my parents called “Patter songs,” based on the Vaudville tradition. (I actually had a great aunt who was a Vaudville singer and dancer, and who retired to an Actors’ Equity home. So I come by it honestly.)

Patter is a term for the fast paced humorous talk, a comedian or salesman’s patter. So a patter song was that, but set to music, often (always?) humorous and often a bit of a refreshing pause in the pace of the musical or variety performance. Gilbert and Sullivan put lots of them into their work. “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” (and Tom Lehrer’s ‘The Element Song” which uses the same tune,) “They Never Will be Missed,” “The Nightmare Song,” and others come to mind. Mozart’s Don Giovanni has a patter song, in the duet where Don Giovanni’s servant, Leoprello, is showing the little book with all of Giovanni’s amorous conquests.

“Do Your Ears Hang Low?” is one I learned as a patter song. Yes, it is a cleaned-up version of an older song, but I sang it along with, “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavor on the bedpost overnight?” and “The Billboard [I came upon a billboard]”. They were humorous bits among more serious choir and church camp stuff. Then there’s the Kingston Trio’s “The Tattooed Lady,” which for some reason I always link with “The Dog Sat in the Tucker Box (Five Miles from Gungadai)”

*Ohrwurm is the German, with the same meaning. It is from the same origin as the English term, although took on the musical sense before English picked the term up. https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/earworm-meaning-origin

Looking at Texas’ Bones

A few weeks ago I went to Muenster. Not Germany, since that would entail . . . Heck, I’m not sure what the requirements are at the moment, past two-weeks quarantine at a hotel at the Frankfurt airport at my expense, and then? No, Muenster, Texas, a Catholic German enclave east of Wichita Falls. It’s a part of the state I had not seen much of, and I stared out the vehicle windows, watching the landscape. Continue reading

No, We’re Not Doing Good . . .

we’re planning the best way to update the Evil Overlord’s Handbook.

we’re working out how to saw Canada free from North America, float it into the Pacific, and open the Northwest Passage. We can use Canada, what doesn’t melt, as a retirement property and sell parcels. Yes, the environmental impact statement will be a pain, especially for converting the Great Lakes into oceanfront, but it’s doable. Now, where to tuck Alaska is a bit more of a question, although just sliding it down past where B.C. used to be and turning Seattle into an inland city has some appeal. Yes, rough on the US Navy to lose Bremerton et al, but it will give the environmental people something to scream about besides Canada going away.

we’re contemplating possible methods for detaching NYC and D.C. from the rest of the Continent and floating them out to sea, then plunging them onto the mid-Atlantic Ridge — while keeping the good museums on the mainland.

we’re pondering what the folks at the bar are pondering.

but we’re not doing good.

[I almost corrected the waiter’s grammar, then caught myself. He meant well, and was doing a great job on a very, very busy evening. I think I’ve been a teacher too long and it’s starting to show!]

Runaway Tulips: Free-range, or Feral?

One of the houses in the neighborhood has a, let us say, relaxed yard. It’s not scraggly or weed-filled, but is a bit shaggy compared to the rest of the block. And a miniature, all-white daffodil and solo red tulip are blooming beside the driveway. Something suspiciously like a random iris or two are growing toward the middle of the yard. Continue reading

April ’21 Author Update

Wolf of the World is done, at least as a draft. It’s at 27K words and I plan on leaving it as a novella. I might market it under a different author name, just because it is so very different from my more recent work. People expecting the humor of the Familiars stories might be very unhappy at the darkness in Wolf. Even though romance is a major element, I’ll sell it as dark fantasy. I fear there is room for spin-off stories, alas, alack.

I’ve started three Familiars stories, no idea where they are going to go. Two are about Deborah, one about Art. And there’s the little piece that was excerpted yesterday.

Once I finish going through Clearly and Distinctly for print, I will get busy on the Merchant and Empire book. I know I’ve been promising, and have fallen through. I do intend to finish it and get it out this year.

I’ve also started a Shikhari short story to submit to an anthology. We’ll see how that goes.

Surviving April is my primary goal. This is contest month at Day Job, and I’m either judging events, or working around events, or grumbling about why events have to be back-to-back. I’m sure none of you ever feel the least bit like that, especially if you have multiple offspring.

(I do wish Arthur would quit popping up demanding vignettes. He scares me. And he’s very, very hard to write as a point-of-view character.)

Music in a Familiars World

So, the question has come up a few times – which bands are real and which are made up?

Purely fictional: Nox Gothica, Flaming Cow Flops, Bat Bhoys, Bat Seeking Belfry, Nuit Ardent Gothique, Darker than Midnight, Aurochs Ghost, Kinder von Grimm, Curling With Cats {added}

Real bands currently recording: Nightwish, Within Temptation, Sabaton, Avantasia, Dark Sarah, Seven Spires, Leaves Eyes, Evanescence, Ad Infinitum, Nox Arcana, Walk in Darkness, August Burns Red, Epica, the Crüxshadows, Voltaire, Rasputina, Rammstein, VNV Nation, Assemblage 23, Eluvite, and Corvus Corax

Real Bands either on hiatus, retired, or disbanded: Poisonblack, Xandria, the Cure, The Mission (UK), The Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Souxie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Dead can Dance, Ozzy Osbourn, Das Ich, Blue Oyster Cult

You’ll notice that I didn’t include the classical music, or country, even though Country is referred to (Kathy Mattea in particular). Genres include goth rock, goth bands that swear they were/are not goth, Dark Wave, metal, symphonic metal, and “no idea but I sort of like them.” Lelia, André, Uncle Leopard, Arthur, and Co. will listen to almost anything once, and tend to be pretty catholic in their tastes. Is it dark and interesting? Then they’ll give it a try. André in particular listens to a fair amount of country, not always of his own free will. He prefers pre-Garth Brooks country, and western. But that’s what he grew up with. Uncle Leopard leans toward the metal end of the spectrum. Lelia will try pretty much anything, including Dark Classical, although she has banned Rammstein from the house. Especially now that all the kids know enough German to suss out the lyrics.